Saint of the Day: St. Piamun of Egypt

(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.Today's saint, St. Piamun, is found in Volume 1 of the series.)

Saint Piamun of Egypt

There are many instances in history in which divine intervention has come to the aid of a threatened people, the most notable of which is outlined in the Old Testament and further immortalized in an epic poem concerning the event by Lord Byron, entitled “The Destruction of Sennaccherib,” wherein is described the awesome power of God in destroying the Assyrian king and his armies in their assault upon Jerusalem. A little-known such intercession of the divine in quite another setting but under similar circumstances is that which took place in early years of Christendom in a remote corner of Egypt as a result of the pious plea of a devout Christian maiden named Piamun, whose saintliness is found only in church archives and remains unmentioned in either the Bible or any inspirational poem.

Had Byron, an Hellenophile of first rank, ever read about Piamun, it is reasonable to assume he might have written about this sweet saint as a companion piece to his well-known and often-quoted poem about Sennaccherib. Piamun has remained an obscure figure down through the ages like some “flower born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air” (Thomas Gray). But, fortunately for the Christians in a small village of Egypt, that flower of Christianity named Piamun did not waste her sweetness with a fragrance born of heaven which acted on the community like some holy incense during her lifetime as one of God’s own servants.

Nothing is known of the early family life of the young maiden now known to us as St. Piamun of Egypt, except that while still a young maiden she evinced a piety which made it quite evident that, while a close member of the community, she was at the same time apart from them, somehow enjoying the company of the Lord when she was not in the company of others. While still very young she won the admiration and respect of her fellow Christians as much as she would have had she been the highest member of the hierarchy.

Piamun lived in one of two villages which remained hostile to one another because of their geographic proximity and their common access to the sacred river Nile, which then, as now, was the lifeblood of the arid lower regions of Egypt. Each village vied with the other for obtaining water from a strategic spot on the Nile, as a result of which the contention burst into open conflict. Because of their dependence on the waters at hand, they were two armed camps, constantly at each other’s throats to the extent that, although they were of the same blood, the struggle for supremacy over the Nile became a sustained campaign of war in which sporadic fights threatened the extinction of both.

At one point in this mutual harassment, it became clear that the enemies of the village where Piamun lived were planning an all-out assault aimed at annihilating the river camp and having the waters of the Nile all to themselves. The numbers of the attackers had been increased by a horde of mercenaries and the outnumbered village where the pious Piamun huddled with her friends now seemed doomed. The stage was set for a one-sided confrontation similar to that when the Assyrians of many years before set and to destroy Jerusalem.Perhaps with this in mind, Piamun knelt in prayer and beseeched God for help in her hour of peril. Her prayer was heard and answered. She had no sooner finished praying than the hordes of the rival village swooped down on her village, but their charge was suddenly halted at the outskirts by an unseen hand. They found themselves powerless to advance upon their neighbors and became transfixed at the sight of a young girl gazing skywards in thanks to God. Unlike the Assyrians of old, these invaders were not destroyed, but through the divine intervention in an answer to a girl’s plea, they realized that the solution lay not in the power of arms but in peaceful negotiation. Peace was achieved and Piamun lived a long life in the Lord until she died on March 3.

Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikipedia

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